What can you use as a substitution for vanilla extract?

Vanilla extract is expensive and imitation vanilla is just not the same. The flavor doesn’t stick right leaving behind the sense that something is missing your favorite recipes. When it comes to making my life simple I like to have a few backups for things around the house.

Substitutions for commonly used items in our home like buttermilk and tomato sauce are vital to have on hand. These substitutes for vanilla extract will help you keep on baking.

Make your own vanilla extract

subsitutions for vanilla extract

If you have the time and you are looking for a way to reduce the cost of the vanilla extract rather than needing a quick substitute for a recipe you can make your own vanilla extract. Making vanilla extract is easy and can be done by anyone. The only vanilla extracts our family uses are homemade or Mexican vanilla extract.

To start you need dried vanilla beans. These can be found in bulk for a fairly decent price online. Slice the beans down length-wise and place in a glass jar, this is a great upcycle for old glass jars with lids.

Cover your vannilla beans in cheap vodka with the highest alcohol content you can find. I have my husband grab Everclear a few times a year for my extracts.

You can place the lid on these jars and place it into a warm dark space to infuse slowly over a couple of weeks or speed up the process of making your own vannilla extract by heating the sealed jars for 30 minutes to an hour in simmering water.

Leave vanilla extract out

In some recipes, the vanilla is not really noticeable or necessary. For these recipes, you can usually get away with leaving out the vanilla extract without tasting the difference. You can leave vannilla to extract out of anything that is naturally highly flavored with other things like cocoa, cinnamon, and fruits.

Vanilla bean powder

If you are looking to replace vanilla extract because you want to avoid adding the alcohol to recipes that will not be cooking the alcohol out or for someone that can not have alcohol in any compacity you can use vannilla bean powder as an alternative. This powdered vanilla bean is a great option and a little goes a very long way and can be mixed with anything. If you need the liquid of vannilla extract mix it with some warm water before using.

Quick and easy vanilla extract substitutes.

Burban, Bandy, or Rum

These flavorful alcohols make a great substitution for vanilla extract. The alcohol in these cooks out just like the alcohol in vanilla extract leaving you with the flavor that varies from traditional vanilla extract for a fun twist.

These flavorful spiced spirits are packed with flavor that replaces vanilla really well in home baking. This is a great option for changing up the flavors of typical vanilla baked goods just slightly.

I discovered this one while cleaning around the house when I smelled an empty glass my husband had rum in the night before. This inspired my new favorite Butter Rum Chocolate Chip Cookies.

Other extracts

Vanilla isn’t the only extract you can use in your baking. Almond extract makes a great substitute for vanilla extract in backing. It has a much stronger flavor. To help keep the flavor profile closer to vanilla you will need to reduce how much extract you use by half.

Mint extract can be a great way to add mint flavor to your favorite recipes in place of vanilla to help mix things up a bit.

Maple syrup

One great option for a quick substitute for vanilla extract is equal parts real grade A maple syrup. This is a flavorful option that can add flavor to your baking as well as frosting and other sweet treats. My friend from Canada is absolutely obsessed with real maple and I couldn’t be more grateful for the ways she has inspired me to try using it.


Like maple, syrup honey has a sweet flavor that can enhance your recipes in place of vanilla. You can use honey in a 1 to 1 ratio but you may want to reduce the sugar in your recipe sightly as honey crystallizes easily and can be very sweet compared to maple syrup. Honey can make a great flavor booster for your favorite sweet treats.


When using the vanilla extract for the flavoring you can take advantage of other spices like cinnamon to kick up the flavor of your foods easily. This is one of my favorite substitutes for vanilla extract in frosting, pancakes, and french toast along with cakes and cookies.

Nutmeg, clove, and chai spice are great substitutes for vanilla as well. Choose what works well for your particular recipe. Spices are a great option for when you are looking for a fall flavor.

Powdered coffee

Simple subsitutions for vanilla extract anyone can use.

A pinch of espresso powder makes a great option for adding a boost of flavor to chocolate baked goods. Simply replace the vanilla extract with a pinch or two of powdered coffee or espresso powder. This can be a great way to add a bit of coffee for moca flavored treats. It makes a great way to flavor expresso fudge if you can not find the espresso chocolate chips.

Lemon zest

While it is best to not replace the flavor from vanilla extract with lemon juice as it can throw off the acidity of your recipe. Instead, add in a bit of lemon zest to help add a dash of flavor in place of vanilla extract. If adding vanilla to a fruity food. This a great option for boosting the flavor of the food more than vanilla can.

Vanilla flavored milk

If you can’t get ahold of vanilla extract and your recipe calls for other ingredients like milk or water you can substitute the vanilla extract and milk or water for vanilla-flavored plant milk including almond or soy milk.

I always have vanilla almond milk in my fridge for my son who tends to have issues handling dairy. If I am baking and discover I am out of vanilla this is an easy way for me to substitute vanilla extract and add some richness to my baking.

The best substitutes for vanilla extract in cookies

I may be a bit biest here but I really feel the best substitute for vanilla extract in cookies is spice alcohol like rum. I use these in my Butter Rum Chocolate Chip Cookies. The flavor is rich and makes for amazing chocolate chip cookies packed with flavor.

The best substitute for vanilla extract in french toast

Cinnamon makes a great substitute for vanilla extract in french toast. This will give you an amazing flavor that is sure to make everyone happy and no one will notice the difference.

The best substitute for vanilla extract in cake

For the best substitute for vanilla extract in cake it depends on the came you are making. For white or yellow and even red velvet cakes your best option is a spiced alcohol like rum.

For chocolate cakes, espresso powder can give the best flavor.

Simple At Home - Making Life Simple Again

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